Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

A Week in the Midwest

This past week I made a trip back to the Midwest for a week full of learning and professional development, catching up with friends, fun and work. Other than the fact that there wasn’t much relaxing, I’d say that it was a pretty well-rounded (and very full!) trip.

AFA Alliance Forum

If you know me at all personally, chances are you’ve heard me talk at some point about Agriculture Future of America (AFA). This collegiate organization was a game-changer for my college experience, and continues to have a huge impact on my life today. Every year during the annual Leaders Conference for students, there is along a forum for the AFA Alliance, the organization’s alumni branch (but you don’t have to be an alum to join!) of which I am a lifetime member. I was so excited to be allotted the time from work to attend this year’s forum. Simply put, these are my “people” and I always leave my time with them feeling refreshed and with new ideas and tools to implement in my work-life and environment. This year’s forum focused on “Trust.” Trust between the agriculture and food industry and its consumers, trust in systems and working through what we don’t understand, trust between colleagues in the work place and more. We heard from speakers on time management, negotiating (on many levels), cultural intelligence and asking better questions. We also spent time chatting with each other about the high’s and low’s of what we are facing as professionals in the agriculture and food industry, which fostered opportunities to learn from each other.

If you are a professional in the agriculture and food industry and are looking for a opportunity for professional development I would highly recommend joining the Alliance and I would love to answer any of your questions!

I ALSO am very excited to share that my peers selected me to be a part of the Alliance Planning Committee, so in 2018 I will be serving as its Vice Chair and in 2019 I will be its Chair. So basically… be prepared to hear a bit more about all this in the time to come 🙂

Kansas City is one of my FAVORITE cities!



Boulevard Wheat is my FAVORITE beer so I was pretty excited that I finally had the chance to visit its brewery in KC. On the last evening of the forum, we had a joint reception there with the AFA Track 4 students (so primarily senior getting ready to graduate in December or next May.)


On Sunday morning, Michael, Ted and I joined Track 4 again for a panel discussion on “Pursuing Lifelong Leadership”…so basically chatting about our experiences navigating our post-grad lives and “adulting”, the importance of staying involved in things that fuel your interests and develop you personally and professionally and anything they wanted to ask about. And they really did have some great questions! I really enjoy these kinds of things because for me, having mentors that get me and a network of people whom I can go to with complicated questions or even chat with about the seemingly little things with has been something I certainly don’t take for granted. I hope that even if it was just for an hour, that something I said resonated with and encouraged someone else.

He wasn’t at the forum, but I was able to squeeze in a quick brunch with my friend Zech who is now living in KC. Zech is one of my sister’s good friends from high school, so it was great to catch up with someone from good old Eastern Oregon and hear about the really awesome stuff he is up to now. I love when we all grow up and my sister’s friends become my friends too, and vice versa.

Wichita

After I was finished with the Alliance Forum, I picked up my rental car and drove the quick 3 hours to Wichita, where Megan, my best friend and college roommate lives. Since I was in KC for the the forum Thursday through Sunday and then had a work event there scheduled for the following Thursday, it didn’t really make sense for me to fly back to DC again in between. I took one of the days off from work so we could get some quality time in together and then spent the other full day working out of her home office. Keeping up with friends when you live so far away from each other and have separate full lives going on is really hard, but so worth it when you have some great ones 🙂

Thank you Megan and Aaron for letting me crash for a couple of days!

Sonic is scarce on the East Coast, or at least in my area, so I went straight for the Route 44.

Megan’s pups Ned (german shepard) and Luna (corgi mix) were never far from the new excited person in their home…

Trade Talk

After a few quick days in Wichita, I drove back up to Kansas City for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) annual Trade Talk event. This event is a part of a larger conference, but essentially it is a day where organizations and companies across the agriculture and food industry set up booths featuring their spokesperson(s) and broadcasters from across the U.S. cycle through and record interviews all day long. That gives them a bank of content they can use sooner if the topics are timely or they can save it for the next few months when they need to fill in their programs. It also allows us as an organization to focus on a few topics and talking points that are at the forefront for us right now. It was a long, but fruitful day.

I decided the booth needed a bit more flair this year so I made two of these arrangements while I was in Wichita. I was pretty happy with how they turned out 🙂

So I’m back in DC now for a few weeks… until I travel back to Kansas (Manhattan this time!) for another work trip at the beginning of December. Lucky me!

Cheers!

Agriculture, Kansas, Photography

{2017} Kansas Wheat Harvest

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson

I have heard this quote many times before, but since I came across it again a few weeks ago, it has really stuck with me.

Happiness, yes. Tom was certainly right about that one.

No matter what is going on during my day, month or season, so much of who I am is rooted in agriculture and the happiness that it brings me is an anchor that I can rely on. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but I strongly believe that a job and your life’s work shouldn’t just be an 8 to 5 that pays the bills.

Over the past couple of days I have been back in Kansas to attend the National Festival of Breads (more on that in a future blogpost), and I had the chance to accompany the Kansas Wheat Commission and their baking contest finalists on a farm tour during the start of wheat harvest.

Everyone knows my happy place is in the Blue Mountains, but I think a Kansas farm with dirt beneath me and blue skies above comes in close second.

In my mind there are few things more beautiful than amber waves of grain, and that afternoon was just the medicine that I didn’t know I needed.

Thanks to the Kejr family for hosting us.

Enjoy!

Cheers!

Agriculture, Friendship, Kansas

Quality of Wheat, Quality of Life.

Life man. It sure throws you some twists and turns. After an insanely busy couple of weeks, some of it expected and some it not… my goal is to get caught up on the blog with a few posts this week, because not only do I enjoy sharing my adventures with you (Hi Mom and Grammy!), but this also is my way of journaling. Right before I left on my trip I posted this graphic on social media. As usual, my life over the past few weeks was right on target.

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So first up, my trip to Kansas, May 20 to 27…

“Quality” is a general characteristic that I think most people would agree is hard to define. We determine quality based on what we value, or more simply on what our needs are, and those variables are obviously going to vary from person to person. With quality usually comes discussions on consistency, efficiency and impact. And then there is the question of the value of quality versus quantity.

My trip to Kansas was all about quality.

I traveled out to Kansas to join one of my colleagues in leading the Overseas Varietal Analysis (OVA) Hard Red Winter (HRW) Wheat Quality Summit. My organization invited overseas wheat customers from five countries (Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Israel and Nigeria), who have participated in our OVA programming to travel to Kansas to discuss HRW quality directly with wheat breeders, public researchers, grain handlers and farmers. These customers represented some of the largest milling and baking companies in their respective markets. We were also joined by three of our USW overseas technical staff who were accompanying the customers on the trip.

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The HRW Quality Summit group at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center.
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Two of my fellow USW colleagues from Nigeria and Korea.

In the United States, there are six distinct classes of wheat grown, each one providing different baking qualities important for different products. So while you might use the same all-purpose flour for everything you cook at home, the products we enjoy from the store or bakery are going to vary in the class of wheat that was used to make it based on characteristics such as texture, protein content, moisture, color and weight. Without going into a huge lesson, the challenge is that quality targets are not the only thing to focus on. The breeders develop different varieties for each wheat class that also focus on yield, disease and drought resistance, and more, and that process takes many years. In grain handling, there are also processes in transportation that impact the overall quality and export process. And then the farmers have the task of choosing the variety that are best for their farm and growing practices.

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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.

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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.
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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.
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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.

Like I said, quality is important. If you want to read more about the Summit and my work click the link below for an article I wrote. (Psst..it’s the second story down.)

Overseas Customers Discuss Need for Stability and Consistency in HRW Wheat Quality

So as I thought about the importance of quality and how we each define it in a different way, I thought about the rest of my trip and my life in general.

It’s so easy to focus on the negative and as hard as we try we often spend too much of our valuable time focused on things that don’t matter in the long run. I don’t know if I am just plain lucky, but the amount of QUALITY people in my life, in every place that I have lived, is humbling. These people love and accept me, and make me always want to be a better person. My “me” time while in Kansas for work was pretty short, but it never takes long for me to be reminded why I will forever be so thankful for my QUALITY time living there.

It’s hard sometimes living in a new city, with a new job and having to make new friends. I want that instant gratification of the QUALITY of life that I have built before, and in my impatience, forget that like breeding and growing QUALITY wheat, some things in life take time,  and trial and error.

During my vacation part of the trip I was able to FINALLY meet my best friend Leah’s new little one, Robin Michele. That look you see on my face below is pure joy! I had to wait two months before I got to hold her, and all the pictures and text messages in the world were just not enough for me.

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Instagram Caption: Finally got to meet and cuddle with baby Robin Michele. She is such a sweetheart, I wasn’t very good at sharing.
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Kyla and Baby Robin

I also got to spend some QUALITY time with friends and enjoying the place that I called home for six years. My old co-worker Jodi invited me and our friend Jancey out to her home for dinner. Her little girl #outlawainsley was born while Jodi and I worked together, and I had a wonderful evening flying a kite, “hopping through the onions,” eating “puppies” (puppy chow) and throwing rocks down a dirt road. My friends Kyla and Nathan came up for the weekend to visit which included walking through and seeing all of the new construction on K-State’s campus and a reminiscing night out in Aggieville. The real champ of week though, was my friend Brandi, who let me crash on her futon for a few nights until I could check into my hotel for work. We watched way too many episodes of Grey’s (she finally got me addicted), drank a decent amount of wine and were obnoxious as can be watching The Bachelorette premiere together.

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Instagram caption: “I wouldn’t give a nickel to have it paved in gold. Everything I love is at the end of a dirt road.”
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Flying a kite with Ainsley and Jancey.
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Kyla and I stopped by Smurthwaite, the women’s leadership/scholarship house where we first became friends.
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Instagram caption: I couldn’t imagine going through life without friends who just get it… Who get me, who laugh at the same things, who appreciate a good glass of #wine and obsess over the same ridiculous things
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Besties back in the Ville.

At this point I would end my blog post complaining about the awful time I had trying to get out of Kansas and back home to DC in time to meet my Mom who was flying in to visit and help me move. Out of all of the crazy travel stories, it might be the best one.

But my trip to Kansas also gave me a good reminder lesson on perspective. That week Kansas saw three days of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, and one of the farmers that I met at the Hays Field Day, went home that evening and lost everything on his farm and home just a few hours later. Twice I drove along I-70 near Chapman where one of the tornadoes crossed and saw just a little of the damage it had caused. It angers me when news reports say the “thankfully” a tornado “only hit a rural area,” and seem to forget that those areas are people’s whole livelihood. I only lived there just short of 6 years, but I consider Kansas home just as much as I do Oregon. I love that state so, so much and the people there even more. I’ve complained my fair share, but I would welcome all of my “troubles” over and over again if it meant those people still had their homes to sleep comfortably in.

Quality people, it’s important, worth recognizing and worth being patient for, in all walks of life.

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Thanks to Pat for snapping this picture of me!
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Instagram caption: #Kansas, blue jeans, Romeos and #wheat… These are a few of my favorite things.

Cheers, friends!

I’ll be back tomorrow with another post!

 

 

Kansas

Long Weekend in Kansas

This past weekend I flew to Kansas for a long, fun-filled weekend.
If I’m being honest, after having K-State season football tickets for 6 years, I just couldn’t imagine NOT going to a game at all. So when I discovered I had Columbus Day off (Thank you Christopher!) and found reasonably priced airline tickets, I decided to make a visit to my second home.

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Megan.

I’m actually surprised that I haven’t been as tired this past week because I really couldn’t have fit more in a little more than 72 hours. I flew in late to Wichita on Friday night and was picked up by my bestie/college roommate Megan. We got up early and road tripped to Manhattan on Saturday, and spent the morning hanging out with Leah and having lunch and coffee at my favorite study place, Bluestem.

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Megan and Leah.

The afternoon was filled with tailgating and catching up with lots of friends. All of my main group of friends in college have gone a lot of different directions, but almost all of us were in town. It is so refreshing to be reminded of the value of those friendships and memories, but equally exciting to see how well everyone is doing now.

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Brandi.

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The game itself was crazy. I was prepared for disappointment, and while the ending was indeed just that, the Cats reminded everyone to never disregard them too quickly. Regardless of the ending, I was still so excited to be back in one of my favorite places on earth. And on such a beautiful day! Seriously, fall sunsets in Kansas are simply gorgeous.

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The family.

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My view from inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
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The game with Cary and Nathan.

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On Sunday I went to breakfast with a few more friends and then Megan and I headed out to Ellinwood, KS to visit our other bestie/roommate, Kyla. While her husband Nathan had been able to make it to Manhattan for the game, she had to stay behind for a school function (she’s a music teacher.) Overall, we traveled over 380 miles that weekend, but nothing was stopping me from including Kyla in my visit. We eventually realized that it was almost a year (a week later) than Megan and I had made similar trip out to see Kyla for my birthday.

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Megan and Kyla.

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We returned to Wichita that evening, and spent Monday relaxing and setting up some things in Megan’s new duplex before my flight left in the late afternoon.

Sometimes surrounding yourself with your favorite people, places and things is just good for the soul. Thanks to everyone for such a great weekend!

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Megan’s pup Luna.

 Cheers!

Friendship, Kansas

Throwback: Two Weddings and…Two Weeks

With wedding season officially in full swing I couldn’t help but reminisce about last year’s season. On this very day last year I was on my way down to Southeast Kansas to kick off two of my busiest weeks, ever! I was honored to stand by two of my best friends, Kyla and Leah in their weddings…which happened to be on back-to-back weekends. It’s kind of hard to imagine that was all a year ago now!

Since I wasn’t regularly blogging at the time, I figured why not do a little throwback!

I said those two weeks were busy, but if I’m being honest, it was the entire first half of 2014. My Pinterest account got daily attention and together my friend Megan and I became bridal shower and bachelorette party hosting pro’s.  There were dress fittings, accessories to keep track of and 10 different hairstyles to plan, practice for and do. For Leah’s wedding there was an invitation to design and +10,000 songs on my iTunes to sort down to one playlist; while for Kyla’s there was an {awesome} speech to write and flowers for my mom and I to put together.

I say all of this not to gripe, but because I want to remember every bit of it.
Yes it was busy, but it was also such a special couple of months.
Both of these girls had been my roommates through college. We finished our growing up together; laughing, crying and supporting each other through accomplishments, mistakes, challenges, change and milestones. They are both so unique, and inspire me with their strength, friendship and compassion. I witnessed both of their love stories and was so happy to share in this part of their lives.

I teased these girls (who are both great friends with each other) for the circles they had me turning in, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. There are so many little anecdotes, jokes and memories, that I have with them and the great group of friends we have, that shared in it all. And in a lot of ways, since the last of us had also just graduated, it was the end of an era.

To Nathan and Kyla, and Leah and Ryan,
Wishing you both a Happy First Anniversary!
Love you!

Friendship, Kansas

Home is Where the Heart Is

I’ve been somewhat lazy this week when it came to writing about my recent trip to Kansas, but I was struggling with coming up with something to say other than that it was fabulous and then recounting all of the details.

I mean it was fabulous. The weekends/vacation time was stuffed full with my favorite foods, places, activities and people. And my work days on wheat tour were fruitful. I was able to take what I already knew from my K-State days working for the grain science department and learn so much more about wheat as a crop, and now have a very hands-on experience to reference back to. And even though I lived in Kansas for six years, it was great to travel and see the state in that way. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over those wide open spaces. If you are interested in learning a bit more about what exactly “wheat tour” is then you can read my summary here http://bit.ly/1JudR6Q (scroll to the second story) or join all of the cool kids and look back at the action on Twitter by searching the hashtag #wheattour15.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures I took on the tour. You can see more here: on.fb.me/1cx9b5P

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It was a very surreal experience being back in Kansas after moving away two months ago. During those two months in DC it seemed as if my life back in Kansas was years and years ago, but when I landed back in Manhattan it felt like I had never left, as if I had just driven to Wichita or KC for the weekend.

I think I struggled earlier this week with what to say about the trip, because I was still processing it all. But now that I’ve unpacked my bags and settled back in at work, there are a few things that my trip back to Kansas showed me.

I really am one of the lucky ones. The years I spent in Kansas were so full of all the things that we deserve to have in life, and revisiting some of those memories was a true testament to that. And the people…my people, man I’ll just say this, they are pretty darn great. But being there, especially on wheat tour, also reminded me why I left. I wanted to do more for agriculture and I wanted to do more for myself. I know now that I would have been selling myself, my past experiences and my passion for agriculture short if I had decided to not step it up and take on the next challenge.

Unfortunately for my family back in Oregon, this trip also confirmed something that has been on my mind for a while. I’m not really big on making too many assumptions about long term plans or where I see myself in “XX amount of years,” but when that time comes someday, Kansas wouldn’t be such a bad place to land back in. Oregon, you and my mountains better step up the campaign game NOW.

It was great to see you Kansas, I’ll be back soon!

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With Megan at the Bogner Wedding!
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Pretty bummed that I won’t be cheering on the ‘Cats here this fall. But I definitely had to check out the new construction during my morning run!
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Soul Sistas….and Luna, who I guess can join the club.

 

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Hanging out with this guy is always a crazy time.

 

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The main four. I’m so glad that Nathan and Kyla were able to join us in Wichita.
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Kyle and Mega. Or essentially…TROUBLE.
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Enjoyed my first weekend with Leah, who helped me indulge in all of my Manhattan favorites. It was also good to see Ryan, Brandi, Jancey, Logan and the IGP team in the Hat!
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The Bogner wedding was fabulous, right down to the purple cotton candy martini’s. We were big fans.
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This guy is just about as good as they come. I am so thankful that my work trip allowed me to be back in Kansas to help celebrate his wedding!
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At the wedding I overheard Emily telling someone…”If it’s going to rain on a wedding, it might as well be on a farmer’s wedding.” Blaine-o you definitely married the right girl!
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Mr. Kellan belongs to my old roommates Cam and Audrianna, who are the first of my close college friends to have kids. This little guy is always so happy and I’m so thankful I could set aside time to sneak in a few Auntie Amanda snuggles.
Kansas, Love Letters

A Love Letter to Manhattan, Kansas

There is one thing I remember from the second time I drove into Manhattan, Kansas. I remember quite a bit about the first time too, but at that time I was a high school senior, and even though I knew that this was where I wanted to go to college, it all seemed so surreal and far away.

But my second time it wasn’t to visit, it was to stay. Manhattan was going to be my home, and I was terrified. I had no idea what I had committed too, and still wasn’t above begging my dad to take me back to Oregon with him. But the single thing I remember from that drive in from the airport was the sound. The sun was starting to go down in my beloved west, and what should have been a beautiful evening, was ruined by what sounded like a surround sound generator. When we pulled up to Smurthwaite Scholarship House, the very first thing my dad says to the girl welcoming me in is, “What the hell is that sound out there?”

They were cicadas and at that point I was pretty sure there was no way I could live in Manhattan, Kansas.

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Fast forward 5.5 years later, not only did I stay and graduate from Kansas State University, but I chose to stay in Manhattan for my first job. Now I’m looking at a new job and adventure in Washington D.C., and with two days before my move, I keep thinking back to those stupid cicadas. I couldn’t tell you when it happened, but at some point they became a normal part of life, and then I didn’t notice them at all.

I think it would be easier to leave a place if you were running from it. But while my life seems to have always moved at a full sprint, I never felt like I was running away from anything. I’ve said this a million and one times, but I never could have known what the choice of a stubborn eighteen year old would become. The phrase “Home is where the heart is” is a common one, but I think it needs to be taken a step further. Home is a feeling, and the strongest, truest, best feelings are the ones that you can’t quite describe. Those are feelings of love. And somewhere between those cicadas driving me insane and now, I fell in love with Manhattan, Kansas, and it became my home.

So here’s my love letter to you, because these are that kind of feelings that should be shared.

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I love you at 7:00pm in the summer. The day’s temperature might have been unbearable, but when the humidity evaporates a little and the harsh sun splashes itself across the western horizon, everything else seems to wake up. Your smell, your color, your people and the promise of a little relief and time to enjoy being outside always got me through until the end of the day. As a K-State alumna I always loved the heartbeat of our campus, but in the summer you slow down and become almost peaceful. I love that you could be both and that the college and the community were a part of each other. I don’t know if you could have one without the other and still fall in love.

But my favorite season has always been fall, and that will always be my favorite time of year here. An oasis amongst the Konza Prairie, I don’t think I will ever tire of looking at the palette of fall leaves against your traditional limestone buildings. Fall also meant the city came alive again and while I quickly became a townie after graduation, K-State is what brought me here in the first place. And when my last day on earth comes, a seat in Bill Snyder Family Stadium with a roaring crowd is a strong contender for how I want to spend it.

I love your culture and your quirky personality. Often, when you say you are from Manhattan, people don’t know that The Big Apple has a little sister settled out in the Midwest. But invest a little time here and give it a chance and you’ll find you don’t need those big city lights. I’ll miss lazy days out at Pillsbury and Tuttle creek, and eating ice cream up on Manhattan Hill. Every time I thought I had finally ate at all of the unique places, there was always on more to try. And man, I’m sure going to miss Nancy’s and raspberry chipotle bean dip at So Long’s.

I’ve seen Aggieville packed with purple, packed with green and just plain packed. Every time I hear red dirt music I’ll be taken back to taken back to sticky floors, neon lights and two-stepping in Longhorns, back when it was in its country prime. She brought me new friends, great memories and terrible stories to laugh about later. And sure it’s great to reminisce about a time when my roommates and I knew its sidewalks better at last call, but I fell in love all over again each time I discovered it’s daytime personality. I loved getting lost in the Dusty Bookshelf, bacon maple donuts at Varsity and cheering on the Wildcats and Royals from the seats of whichever bar wasn’t “cursed” at the time.

You know, I could have written this letter to K-State specifically to reminisce about college but I’ve had time to do that since I graduated, and as much as I miss it, I’m okay with those four years being memories. Really great memories. And like college has, you’ll soon become a part of my past. But you see people pass through with their eyes on the future year after year, and you should be pretty darn proud at the role you’ve played in the success of so many of those futures.

Most people agree that it’s the simplest things in life to enjoy and surround yourself with. Well Manhattan, you sure do simple well. It’s ordering the Blackhole at Bluestem Bistro, exploring the Konza and waking up to see the sunrise on “Top of the World.” It’s driving “the city loop” at midnight with the windows down and blaring your favorite playlist. It’s the fact that you could meet someone new everyday, then see five people you knew at the grocery store. It’s all of your silly traditions. It’s tailgating on Gameday and fighting back the tears when they open the game with “Proud of the House We Built.” It’s showing you off to my family every time they visited. It’s forgetting how many times you’ve seen Logan Mize live and the crowd singing along to “Never Gonna Change.”

I love you for the people you brought into my life. Some were temporary and only shared a short part of their lives with me and others I’ll be connected to for the rest of my life. These people changed me. They became my best friends, partners in crime and soul sisters. They taught me to love Kansas.They welcomed me into their families. I’ve always believed that you will find good, kind people wherever you go, but I’m pretty convinced that the best ones have lived in Kansas at some point in their life.

This was a long love letter, not short and snappy like a blog post should be, but I needed to write it. For others, because I want you to know how much it hurts my heart to leave. My life here was full in every way. I feel selfish to think that maybe, just maybe I can find what I had here in another place. But if I don’t, I know that I lived more in these 6 years, then some ever do.

I mostly wrote this though, for myself. It’s a strange feeling, when you’re about to leave a place. I know that I’m not only going to miss the people I love, and this town, but I’m going to miss the person I am at this very moment and place, because I know I’ll never be this way ever again. But I am so very thankful for that person you made me become.  You taught her to laugh louder, write better and think for herself. She learned to love and she learned that as long as you kept moving forward, it was all worth it. You showed her what life could be when you embraced the crazy. She finished growing up here, became independent and passionate about the world around her. If it wasn’t for you, she might have never been brave to take another risk and make a move like this.

To Manhappiness, this purple little town that I’ve called home,
I’m so thankful those cicadas became a normal, welcomed part of life.
I can’t wait to come back and visit.

Love,
Amanda

Click HERE to Watch My Farewell Video